Chris Tarr Head of Cataloging

Catherine the Great : Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great : Portrait of a Woman

I was excited to see Robert Massie’s Catherine the Great, having fond memories of reading the Book of the Month club edition of his Nicholas and Alexandra one high school summer. It’s been 45 years since that book was published – seems amazing that he’s still writing. I have mixed feelings about the book. Catherine is a fascinating person, and it’s interesting (like a soap opera, a colleague said) to read about her life and the happenings at her court and the court of her predecessor Empress Elizabeth. But history has changed in 40 years, or maybe just my understanding of history, and I couldn’t help wanting to know more about what was going on in Russia outside Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and also where Catherine’s fantastic wealth came from. But eventually Massey gets to that, a little bit, and I came away understanding more about serfs and the partition of Poland and how Russia acquired the Crimea. It’s a character study and a crash course in a piece of European history I was not all that familiar with.